Eye of Newt

Peggy Noonan on the rise of Newt Gingrich:

Republicans on the ground who view Mr. Gingrich from afar, who neither know nor have worked with him, are more likely to see him this way: “Who was the last person to actually cut government? Who was the last person who actually led a movement that balanced the federal budget? . . . The last time there was true welfare reform, the last time government was cut, Gingrich did it.” That is Rush Limbaugh, who has also criticized Mr. Gingrich.

And that is exactly what I’ve been hearing from Newt supporters who do not listen to talk radio. They are older voters, they are not all Republicans, and when government last made progress he was part of it. They have a very practical sense of politics now. The heroic era of the presidency is dead. They are not looking to like their president or admire him, they just want someone to fix the crisis. The last time helpful things happened in Washington, he was a big part of it. So they may hire him again. Are they put off by his scandals? No. They think all politicians are scandalous.


I was having this very conversation a few days ago with Tony Katz, I beleive, who wondered why Newt seemed to be the Teflon candidate. The answer is very simple: We already know all about Gingrich. Noonan nailed it earlier in her column when she wrote, “He is the first modern potential president about whom there is too much information.”

Newt lost the ability to shock us a long time ago. Each new revelation is met with a shrug of the shoulders, rather than outrage or even mere disappointment. He is an exhausting public figure, in ways that both delight (welfare reform, balanced budget act) and not-so-delight (poor leadership, big government conservatism).

We knew all of this 15 years ago. After four years of the Newt & Bill Show, we lost the ability to be shocked. Barack Obama rode that weariness — with help from a compliant press — right past Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright. Newt may very well do the same thing, minus the compliant press, all the way to the GOP nomination. Maybe even the White House.

But at some point, I’m afraid, he might do something so stupid, so reckless, or so self-servingly grandiose, that we’ll learn how to be shocked all over again.


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